…An icon Emeriti -crown’s a successor as the Dauphin of his iconic legacy...Deo…
By- DeoVonte “Deo” Means
The iconic French designer, Jean Paul Gaultier; commonly dubbed the “enfant terrible” of fashion – began the year 2020 – with a jovially auspicious message announcing his retirement. “Gaultier Paris will continue Haute Couture! I have a new concept; I’ll tell you about it later, I’ll tell you all the little secrets. But it is going to continue.” Shockwaves reverberated throughout the fashion world as we realized it’s impossible to quantify Gaultier’s contribution to fashion and modern pop-culture. Gaultier has a legacy as one of the most influential and innovative designers of the modern era, paving the way for a new crop of creatives to follow in his footsteps. As the sunsets on his illustrious 50-year career, we reflect upon the genius of Gaultier which revolutionized our perception of Haute Couture, Couture, Luxury Menswear, and RTM – simultaneously! Throughout his career, he became known as one of the most innovative designers in fashion history!
Jean Paul Gaultier possess one of the most impeccable resumes, with a pedigree that includes training under the tutorage of “Old Masters” such as Pierre Cardin, Jacques Esterel, and Jean Patou. He debuted his collection in 1976 with an audacious design esthetic. Rather than focusing on luxury and opulence, his work was about what he saw on the streets around him. In 1980, he released a collection designed around the idea of “throwaway beauty.” He used garbage bags and tin cans as motifs – the latter of which has since become his signature (The Tin-Can Bottle).
He caught international attention in 1990 after designing for Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition Tour. The pop singer personally asked him to design 358 costumes for the tour including the iconic pink corset and conical bra, which she wore over men’s trousers. This was the beginning of Gaultier as an icon, legend, and haute couture master! Gaultier upwardly propelled through the nineties and 2000’s by becoming the architect of gender fluidity and embracing subversive sexuality almost two decades before it became socially accepted and de rigueur. Gaultier’s work was synonymous for challenging and eliminating gender norms. He blurred the visual distinctions between the sexes. Gaultier contradicted how men were expected to look and, more fundamentally, challenged ideal attributes of male behavior. Even David Beckham was photographed in a Jean-Paul Gaultier skirt.
In 2003, he sponsored an exhibit at the Costume Institute of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled ‘Braveheart: Men in Skirts.” The exhibition examined designers and individuals who have appropriated the skirt as a means of injecting novelty into male fashion, as a means of transgressing moral and social codes, and as a means of redefining an ideal masculinity.
Gaultier has collaborated with the likes of Hermes, La Perla and Coca-Cola. Two of his most widely known disciples include former assistants, Nicolas Ghesquière and Martin Margiela. In 1997 Gaultier opened his haute couture house. Today, his house is one of only eleven to be formally recognized by France’s Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture — the body which governs high fashion in France. The process to be recognized by the couture syndicate is intense. One must design made-to-order clothes for private clients and hire no less than 15 full-time craftspeople. Then, twice a year, the designer must present a collection that has at least 35 outfits and the collection must include both evening and day wear. In addition, couture is oftentimes so expensive that very few people actually buy it. “Couture houses almost always operate at a loss; they exist to showcase the designers’ most unencumbered fantasies.” In 2001, Gaultier was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in France, the highest order someone can receive in France for merits of military and civility. In 2003, he sponsored an exhibit at the Costume Institute of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled ‘Braveheart: Men in Skirts. “The exhibition examined designers and individuals who have appropriated the skirt as a means of injecting novelty into male fashion, as a means of transgressing moral and social codes, and as a means of redefining an ideal masculinity.”
His final show, held on 02/22/20 at the Théâtre du Châtelet; Karlie Kloss, Coco Rocha, Bella and Gigi Hadid, and his muse Farida Khelfa all walked. Attendees included Lady Gaga, former first lady of France Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Dita Von Teese, Karon Elson, and Boy George. In true Gaultier form, the announcement of his successor took place with full theatrics and strategy. “What I did at the beginning with no resources, I do today with my inheritance to give life to new creations” is how his message began. “Each season, I will invite a designer to interpret the codes of the House, and I am doubly pleased that the Japanese designer Chitose Abe of Sacai is the first designer invited to interpret the haute couture codes of the house.“
Abe is often hailed as being a pioneer of hybridization in fashion, The collection will debut in July for autumn 2020 as part of a couture fashion week that the industry is hoping will be one of the most exciting in years, with Balenciaga also recently announcing it will debut a couture offering, the house’s first in 52 years, in Paris.